NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Bean bag chairs, bright colors and books have been combined to create an inviting atmosphere for teen readers at the North Myrtle Beach Library.
Sandra Causey, youth services librarian, engineered a redesign of the teen reading room when she joined the branch a month and a half ago. Her aim was to create a fun, accessible space where students in grades six through 12 could enjoy the library’s new activities and continue reading during the summer.
“It’s a struggle to get teens in the summer – this is the toughest age group to reach – and if they get away from the library, they don’t always come back, or they come back once they have kids,” Causey said. “We wanted to do something to make them comfortable, so it’s somewhere they want to hang out.”
The teen reading room is self-contained, and Causey said the stacks and shelves were reconfigured to open up the room and enhance the displays for 200 to 250 books. Books now face outward so teens can see the covers, which influence their selections, and popular magazines, graphic novels and manga (translated Japanese comics) also are in the mix to entice even the most reluctant readers.
Décor is based on a beach theme, with surfboards anchoring the stacks, but there also are posters and decorations that correspond with popular series and upcoming activities. Causey said she has often seen teens ignore furniture in favor of the floor, so she allowed for ample open space and added comfy bean bag chairs.
Causey said most of the kids who attend summer reading programs are around middle school age, as those in 10th grade and up often have jobs and less time for other activities, and she had a huge response when she talked about the summer program at North Myrtle Beach Middle School. She said older kids are more apt to take volunteer opportunities, such as reading to children, that earn them school credit or that can go on a college application or resume. She has created a college corner, complete with school pennants, especially for them that features information about regional colleges and universities.
The teen program, “Beneath the Surface,” will be held at 11 a.m. on six Saturdays and kicks off June 15 with a Caribbean luau, featuring steel drummer Justin Matthews. There is no registration, and future activities will include martial arts, shadow art, ghosts, an indie band and prizes, in addition to the main event.
“It’s really about getting them to read, period,” Causey said.
Educators with Horry County Schools agree it is critical for students to continue reading when they aren’t in school.
Ashley Blankenship, HCS learning specialist for sixth- to eighth-grade English language arts, said there is proof that all students, kindergarten through 12th grade, lose ground when they stop reading over the summer. She said reading stamina will be essential when the district fully implements the Common Core State Standards in 2014, and college-bound students must already be prepared to tackle between 200 and 500 pages a week.
The district has its own summer reading program, which Blankenship said had been changed to allow students more choice. They can receive credit for reading up to two books over the summer, and she said they value being able to make their own choices.
“You do everything you possibly can to excite them, and sometimes, it just takes a really good book to do that,” Blankenship said. “When they come back, they come back with different experiences, and nothing is more igniting than one student recommending a book to another.”
Causey is one of three youth services librarians in the county, and she purchases the young adult books for Horry’s 10 library branches and bookmobile. She said she reads every dustcover and numerous reviews about each book, and she selects award-winners, as well as those from popular culture – especially the ones being made into movies.
She said teen story trends seem to be moving from vampires, such as in the “Twilight” series, to angels, although zombies are really huge with teens and adults. She said popular genres include Steampunk, which combines Victorian elements and futuristic themes (think “The Wild, Wild West”), dystopian (“The Hunger Games”) and paranormal romance.
“It can be monsters or science fiction, but I haven’t read very many that don’t have a love story,” Causey said. “Some books do deal with serious subjects like drugs, bullying, peer pressure, and what one person might think is a little sketchy, others won’t. It’s up to the parent to limit what their child is reading.”
Causey is already looking forward to the library’s fall programs, which will include a Renaissance event in November and other family activities.
“The library is really switching from being a book warehouse to a community center,” she said.
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.